The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), has called for a stronger and united labour movement that would help redirect the ship of the country. Noting that Nigeria is already faced with many challenges that required a united labour movement to address, they recalled how difficult it has been to actualise the new minimum wage due to the schism in the movement.
The expectation came as a result of the recent reconciliation between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and United Labour Congress (ULC), thereby shelving a five-year disagreement that arose from the 10th National Delegates Conference of Congress in 2015.
This comes as the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), believes the unification of the unions would reposition labour movement to resist anti-workers’ policies. The TUC said the ability of the centres to resolve the impasse is a testimony that the labour movement knows its onions, and can always handle its internal crisis with maturity no matter how long the issue at stake has lasted.
President and Secretary General of TUC, Quadri Olaleye, and Musa-Lawal Ozigi, respectively, reaffirmed their responsibility as a labour movement to the Nigerian workers, stating that they “cannot afford to fail them no matter how hard the external forces try to penetrate us.”
While commending Ayuba Wabba, Joe Ajaero, and the National Executive Council (NEC) of NLC, the TUC said: “With this reconciliation, we expect a stronger and united labour movement that would help redirect the ship of the country.
“The country is faced with numerous challenges that require a united labour movement to address. We could recall how difficult it was to actualise the new minimum wage due to the schism in the movement.
“We are happy that some people who wanted to take advantage of the situation were eventually disappointed. They failed to understand that no matter the crisis there is an internal mechanism the labour movement uses to resolve its differences. We shall remain eternally committed to the bond of brotherhood and solidarity that we vowed to uphold.”
On his part, the General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, who lauded the reunification in an interview with The Guardian in Abuja, added that the next move is the complete amalgamation of the existing two labour centres.
Adeyemi said: “Prior to the balkanisation of the trade centre, you find that the NLC was stronger even under the military government before the birth of TUC, and recently ULC, if we want to be honest with ourselves. So, we need to go back to the drawing board and be honest to ourselves. We are weak because of this fragmentation; that is the truth. We must work to ensure that everybody is brought on board.”
He noted that the parties in dispute had resisted the merger, “because they didn’t want to lose titles and influence. This has led to many unions unable to pay rents and pay staff salaries.
The unions need reengineering; the secretariats of industrial unions are collapsing and there is a need to strengthen the industrial unions to make them strong
“If the industrial unions are not strengthened, what we will get at the centre will be a semblance of what is happening at the level of industrial unions. The industrial unions should be the ones feeding the centre. So, if the industrial unions are weak, the centre will be weak, because no one can put something on top of nothing.”
Adeyemi also opined that the movement must checkmate the emergence of power grabbers within its fold, to build a virile, strong and insoluble labour centre.
“One may not be able to completely checkmate destructive ambitions of office seekers but it can be reduced. A lot of transparency is needed to reduce people’s ambitions. As long as trade unionists do not know that there is value in transparency, and for as long as the offices of the trade unions become so lucrative and turn into bazaars for the highest bidders, there cannot be peace in the movement,” he added.
As the African Region President of Public Service International (PSI), Adeyemi also urged African labour unions to believe in the principles and objectives of the organisations they lead, and work towards improving what they inherited.
He said: “Labour activism is not about what you get; it is about what you give. Capitalists are uniting everywhere in the world; workers also have to unite. For me, we have to come together so that we can be a formidable force to confront the bourgeoisies in government. Until labour speaks with one indivisible voice, we will not get to the promised land.”